From flatware to flathead screwdrivers, sauces to shuttles, the 600-mile Tour de Georgia will require an army of planners to keep up with the needs of 144 cyclists.
Romans will see that hard work come to fruition when the race rolls through town Friday.
Time trials begin in Savannah on Tuesday. The cyclists, who will be competing for an expected purse of $250,000, will start their trek in Augusta and travel to Macon on Wednesday. On Thursday, they will go to Columbus and then will be shuttled to Pine Mountain, where they will pedal to Rome on Friday. The race will pick up again in Dalton, go through Gainesville and end in Atlanta on Sunday.
The entourage will include more than 400 people — 18 teams with a total of 144 cyclists, and the rest including team support members, race officials, marshals and tour volunteers who travel the entire race. In addition, each community will have its own volunteers on hand.
The tour’s recipient charity is the Georgia Cancer Coalition. Tour de Georgia hopes to raise at least $1 million for the GCC, officials said.
Tourism officials excited about economic impact
Calculating how the race will affect cash registers is difficult, since neither Rome nor Georgia has held a race of this magnitude before, said Lisa Smith, executive director of the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau.
But based on hotel bookings alone, Smith is encouraged.
“Just on rooms the visitors bureau has booked, we’ve seen $96,500,” said Smith. She said more than 400 overnight rooms and 50 two-night rooms have been booked in Rome for the race.
“That does not include those who made reservations on their own or additional services,” she said. And she won’t even guess what those numbers will come to.
Kathleen Hardison, director of marketing for the tour, said an economic impact of about $30 million is anticipated over five years for the entire state.
Additional services requested by tour officials include food and beverage service, florists, car rentals, tent rentals, linen services and bleachers.
Some of the economic benefits can’t be calculated, Smith said.
“Turner Broadcasting is giving us commercial airtime because we are a host city,” said Smith.
“We are being exposed to the world — that’s why it’s necessary for us to put on a great show,” said Smith.
Volunteers help to keep bicyclists rolling along
Like the spokes of the wheels turning during the Tour de Georgia, volunteers will keep things running smoothly — handling everything from traffic control to meals for the calorie-starved bikers.
More than 200 local volunteers have come together to support the event, Smith said.
“I walked out of my house one evening and two uniformed Marines got out of their car and said they were reporting for duty,” she laughed. “They handed me a stack of about 20 volunteer forms — I loved it.”
Tracy Page, who also works at the visitors center, is in charge of the group of volunteers who will be feeding the cyclists and crew members passing through Rome on Friday. “I’m still about 20 short,” she said. Her volunteers will serve food and drinks at the Rome Civic Center and clean up afterward. She expects crowds to start around 6 p.m.
Meals are being prepared by area restaurants, which have strict dietary guidelines to follow. “They (cyclists) won’t eat anything that may hurt their performance,” said Page.
She said meals, roughly about 10,000 calories for each cyclist, will consist of fish, chicken, lots of carbohydrates and very little fat. “Sauces must be on the side, and absolutely nothing that can spoil, such as mayonnaise products,” she said.
While her volunteers won’t prepare meals, they will wash the dishes later.
“The tour also requested no paper products — it has to be china and flatware,” she said.
Dirty dishes will be shipped to The Forum, so volunteers can use dishwashers there. The Forum was already booked for that day, but the kitchen wasn’t, so Page and her volunteers are going to take advantage of it.
Monitoring traffic to be biggest local challenge
The cyclists must navigate Rome’s streets and intersections, which must be free of traffic and animals. That’s where most volunteers will be busy.
“I have about 170 volunteers helping me,” said Harry Brock, who is heading up volunteers with traffic control.
Brock said his volunteers will team up with county police officers at Silver Creek United Methodist Church, 36 Reeceburg Road, to work at 21 different intersections and streets.
He has another group working with the Rome Police Department downtown.
“We’ll have police officers at the intersections and volunteers in between, at driveways, as course marshals,” said Brock.
“What they (police and volunteers) will do is make certain no one backs out of their driveway onto the course” at the wrong time, said Brock.
He said city police have given residents in the downtown race area a brochure outlining when they can and cannot back out of their driveways.
Lisa Smith said about 214 driveways must be monitored during the race.
That inconvenience to drivers “won’t last very long,” she said.
The cyclists will ride Lake Creek Road in Cedartown to Floyd County. The course will then come along Ga. 101. The group will turn right on East 12th Street, turn right on Broad Street, make several loops around downtown, including Clock Tower Hill, and finish in front of City Hall.
Pepperell High, Middle, Elementary and Primary, and Midway Primary and McHenry Primary will dismiss at noon Friday. The schools will close early because the bike race route will be in the Pepperell area near dismissal time, making transportation difficult with roadblocks and increased traffic.
All students will eat lunch before dismissal and they should arrive home from school no later than 1:30 p.m. There will be no after-school care at the Pepperell schools that day.
Making things right for riders is the goal
Making everything right for the riders is the end goal of all the volunteers.
“Our main responsibility is to make certain they have a good time and their needs are met,” said Page. “We want this to be the best place they’ve ever visited.”
A lot rides on that responsibility, said Lisa Smith. “I’m amazed at the possibilities this race has for Georgia and Rome.”
“This is going to be bigger than a lot of people realize,” said Trey Smith, a Roman who is volunteering as a mechanic.